Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical Therapy Assistants work under the direct supervision of a Physical Therapist to help patients increase their muscle strength, improve mobility and relieve pain due to injury or medical condition. Here is some physical therapy career information:

Description of  health care career information and the daily work:

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) works under the supervision of the Physical Therapist (PT) to perform a variety treatment plan components designed by the PT and the patient to restore function, improve mobility or relieve the pain of the patient. Specifically, patients may seek the services of physical therapy because of disabling conditions of lower back pain, arthritis, a neurological disorder or the inability to easily move arms and legs due to an accident or long term injury. As a Physical Therapists, you would not only work with individuals to help them recover from injury and ailments, but also help prevent injury by teaching patients how to avoid further injury and by promoting good practices and overall fitness and health.

PTAs are involved in implementing the treatment plan by assisting patients to increase their muscle strength and improve their coordination, mobility and range of motion. They do this by educating patients, teaching therapeutic exercises and using special equipment to perform treatments when necessary. Like Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy Assistants use aides such as hot packs and cold compresses, deep tissue massage and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling which helps in the healing process. However, Physical Therapist Assistants may not initiate or alter a patient treatment program without prior evaluation and approval of the supervising Physical Therapist. The Physical Therapist Assistant records the patients’ response to treatment and informs the Physical Therapist of the treatment outcome.

The job of a PTA can be physically demanding due to helping patients manipulate their bodies. If you are interested in becoming a PTA, you must be able to stoop, kneel, lift patients and be on your feet for long periods of time.

PTAs work in private physical therapy offices, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, nursing homes and for home health care services. Their schedules are similar to those of PTs which are mostly daytime hours, but time may be required on the weekends and evenings to fit patient’s schedules.

Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:

Physical Therapist Assistants must complete a two-year education program which is typically offered through a community or junior college. Candidates receive an Associate’s degree upon graduation. The course of study usually includes one year of general education and one year of technical courses on physical therapy procedures and experience in a clinical setting. Graduates of accredited programs for PT and PTA must complete The National Physical Therapy licensing examination given by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Once you have graduated from an accredited program and passed the National Physical Therapy licensing exam (along with proving good moral character and payment of fees) you can apply to become registered as a Physical Therapist in your State. The State Board of Registration in Physical Therapy will issue your license if you meet all eligibility criteria.


The full time median annual earnings for Physical Therapy Assistants nationally in 2002 was $36,080. In 2002, the hourly range was $14.78 – $23.34.

Career Path and/or Opportunities for Growth:

If you are considering the physical therapy field, a solid career path for a PTA is to continue your education to become a Physical Therapist, which requires a minimum of a four-year degree for a Bachelor of Science degree and six years for a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. A PTA can also specialize in areas such as pediatrics or geriatrics. The job outlook for this position is higher than average due to an aging population in need of rehabilitative services.

Professional Associations:

American Physical Therapy Association